I have to admit that hearing the alarm go off for an early morning shoot isn’t always easy, even when you know that you’ll be rewarded by the solitude of a world just waking up. Almost every early rise is worth the effort, but some provide that little cherry on top that life throws your way every so often.  Last Wednesday was one of those mornings for me.

I dragged myself out of bed at 5:45 am, on vacation no less, to make an early morning visit to Botany Bay, a 4,700 acre refuge on Edisto Island in South Carolina where two plantations once stood. In the pre-dawn glow, I made my way down the long dirt road to the entrance through tunnels of live oaks and spanish moss.

After about ten minutes of winding and weaving though maritime forests and marshes, intermixed with fields of summer corn, I made it to the parking area for the beach walk just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. I parked, lathered myself up with bug spray and sunscreen and began down the path to the beach crossing some of the most expansive marsh I’ve ever seen. Imagine miles and miles of vibrant green marsh grasses bisected by tidal guts filled with scurrying fiddler crabs and oysters exposed by a low tide.

I continued down the path into a small section of forest so thick and lush that I could have just as easily been in a Hawaiian tropical rainforest instead of South Carolina. I observed a great egret perched high up on the branch of a tree, preening itself. Off to each side of the trail and overhead were spiderwebs with golden-silk spiders. Eventually, I emerged onto a undeveloped, wide white sand beach covered with thousands and thousands of shells. This was reward enough for getting out of bed early, right? Things got better.

As I started hiking up the coastline, I noticed a group of people just up ahead occupied by something on the sand. As I got closer, I began to realize that I was about to observe one of nature’s rare gifts - sea turtle hatchlings making the trek from their nest out into the ocean. Five small loggerhead turtles slowly inched down the beach towards the surf. Typically, this journey can be full of many dangers from predators such as shorebirds, foxes and racoons who are looking for an easy meal to impediments such as deep trenches from tire tracks. These five turtles were lucky to have a group of guardians to watch over them.


Eventually, the turtles made it to the surf and slipped away one by one into the sea. I wish them the very best on their continued journey. With a lot of luck, some will make it back to Botany Bay one day to lay eggs. The odds are heavily stacked against them. Seeing their struggle, which only begins with this perilous beach crossing, made me appreciate just how easy we (humans) have it. Getting up early? Well, it’s really no hardship after all.

Note: many kudos to the legions of folks, mostly volunteers, that get up early morning after morning to check on nests and help these little guys safely make their way to the ocean.

16-August-2009 | Photo ShootsTechniques & Tips